3619 South State Street, otherwise known as the Overton Hygienic Building, was commissioned by Anthony Overton in 1922 as a mixed-purpose office and manufacturing building. It was home to the CHICAGO BEE between 1922 and 1929, when the paper moved into a custom built headquarters just a few plots further south on State Street. After Overton sold the building it served a variety of functions, including as a hotel and flophouse. In 2007 The Davis Group completed a multi-million dollar renovation project aimed at restoring the build to its former glory. It is currently owned by the Mid-South Planning and Development Commission, which intend to use the space as an incubator for small business and social enterprise development.
3619 South State Street, circa 2010.
Image courtesy of Andrew Jameson
As the Overton Hygienic Company expanded in the years following World War I, Anthony Overton envisioned a six-story business hub for his various publishing and business endeavours. His dream became part of a rivalry with fellow black businessman Jesse Binga, and the two men came to play a central role in the development of new real estate along the South Side business corridor during the 1920s.
During its formative years the Chicago Bee shared its headquarters with the Hygienic Company at 3619-3627 South State Street, at the heart of the South Side's 'Black Metropolis.' Still standing today, the Overton Building was a multi-use four storey building which following its construction in 1922 would become one of the most recognisable black-owned businesses in Chicago.
It also came to house the offices of Walter T. Bailey, who became the first black architectural graduate from the University of Illinois, and the first licensed black architect in the State. Bailey maintained offices in the Overton Building while working on what would become the largest commission of his career - the National Knights of Pythias Temple at 3737 South State Street. Lee Bey has suggested that, at the time, the Temple was 'the most expensive building ever built, and designed, by black people.'
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